New role for educator

Gene Sakahara will leave job as director of GUSD’s human
resources on June 30
GILROY – Whether he is dishing out antics during the Saka-Bozzo Show at The Garlic Festival or hashing out the details of union negotiations for the school district, Gene Sakahara wears many hats.

However, Sakahara, 54, will step down as the lead person in Gilroy Unified School District’s Human Resources Department on June 30. He handed in his resignation Friday.

“It’s a great loss,” said Michelle Nelson, president of the Gilroy Teachers’ Association. “He’s been willing to listen and work with us … and he remembers what it is like to be in the classroom.”

District officials agree that Sakahara is one of the biggest assets in the school district. With his smiling face, no-nonsense attitude and positive outlook, he will be missed.

“He’s a wonderful person and he is truly a dedicated educator,” said Superintendent Edwin Diaz who has known Sakahara for more than 20 years. “He always has the best interest of kids at heart.”

Sakahara decided to resign from his position as Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources after he developed heath problems related to high blood pressure. While his doctor told him that he should cut back on his workload by leaving the office at 5 p.m. and even, Sakahara laughs, taking a lunch break, the demands of the job were more than he could physically give.

“Going home at 5 (p.m.) just doesn’t work,” Sakahara said of his position that demanded at least 12-hour days. “The job is pretty intense.”

Sakahara said that although he wanted to maintain his position, he could not change the demands of the job.

“I (would) come home late and I started to realize that this is not changing,” he said. “If I don’t do this, I won’t be around.”

He will step down to take on a half-time position as a recruiter for the school district, so as he bluntly puts it, “I’ll still be around.”

When Sakahara leaves, the contracts for the three unions in the GUSD will likely not be settled. Nelson notes that negotiation times vary, sometimes wrapping up in October sometimes lasting a whole year.

It will be difficult losing Sakahara in the midst of the negotiations because his relationships with union representatives have been solid, and officials note that he has built trust between the groups and the district.

“He’s really easy to work with,” Nelson said. “Any teacher you ask in this district will agree this is a great loss.”

Raised in Gilroy since he was 3 years old, Sakahara said he has worked all his life, and after paying his own way through college at Chico State he said he came back to Gilroy, “as a kind of fluke.”

After teaching in Monterey for three years, he had hopes of returning to graduate school and he laughs as he tell the story of his scholarship being pulled after the school determined he wasn’t a woman.

Trying to find work in the area, he began teaching a San Ysidro School – the same school he attended when he lived in Gilroy – for seven years. Then, in 1981 he was appointed as the school’s principal.

In the fall 1987 he then went to serve as principal at Rod Kelley School for more than nine years and onto Jordon School.

“Each time I got the job, I knew in my heart it was mine,” he said.

After almost two years at Jordon, he was hired at the district office to serve as director of curriculum and instruction.

Last year, Diaz approached Sakahara to serve in his current position.

“I promised him two years,” Sakahara said.

When he leaves on June 30, he will have served in the position for about one year.

“That’s my only regret,” he said.

Sakahara isn’t all about work though. He served as president of The Garlic Festival in 1991, and formed a relationship with Sam Bozzo, who served as president the year before. They then went on to develop a comical cooking demonstration known as the Saka-Bozzo Show, which the two have performed at the annual event for about seven years.

“This guy is an amazing person,” Bozzo said of his comical partner. “I don’t know if I am the president of the Gene Sakahara fan club, because I know other people would claim that, but I would be on the board of directors.”

Bozzo, who works at the Monterey County Office of Education as director of personnel, said replacing Sakahara will be tough.

“He was the absolute perfect person for that job,” Bozzo said. “Not only does he know his job, but he knows people.”

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